A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
What's the story?
Sophie is trapped in her life as the responsible eldest daughter who runs the family hat business and has nothing to look forward to. Everything changes when the evil Witch of the Waste bursts into her shop and, for mysterious reasons, turns her into an old woman. Wandering away from town she finds herself alone in the wilderness at night, and stumbles across the titular castle, owned by a wizard rumored to take the souls of young girls.
Once there she makes a deal with a captive fire demon -- if she breaks the contract between the demon and Howl, the demon will lift the spell on Sophie. There's only one problem -- no one can tell her what the contract is, or how to break it.
Is it any good?
Diana Wynne Jones writes the old-fashioned kind of fantasy: fascinating and original, but slow and meandering. Once Sophie settles in at the castle, it's hard to say what the story is about for the next couple of hundred pages. That's not to say it's boring -- far from it. But, much like the castle that wanders around in the wilderness, it doesn't seem to go much of anywhere, or to have a definite purpose.
Eventually there's a nice climactic showdown; though much of it happens offstage, so to speak, a few secrets and surprises are revealed, and it's wrapped up satisfyingly. Die-hard fantasy lovers adore this and other Wynne Jones books, but those who need action, adventure, or a clear plotline may find it too murky.